Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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The grower in all of us

It has been a bad two grow years, economically, physically, environmentally and emotionally.  We have our doubts.  This winter has been a low point for me when talking about future growing efforts and sales. I have heard the saying, "when one door closes a window opens". I never understood that, does it mean I am suppose to climb out the window or let the fresh air in to reduce the odor of defeat.

But as spring nears and the stinkbugs begin to fly around the inside of the house, my feelings change.  We are cutting back drastically in an attempt to reach the black this year.  Yes, we still might not make it, but I still see potential and my internal clock is starting to wind. I have opened up the rain water collection tanks, we are only planting a few things and we have increased egg production.  A thousand strawberry plants will start to produce, eggs are sold into the future and corn will not be planted near BMSB areas increasing the potential for yield. I came across this poem from Alexander Pope, titled "An Essay on Man", and it just struck a cord. 

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never Is, but always To be blest: 

The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home, 

Rests and expatiates in a life to come. 

I like to think he is talking about spring as well as humans, and I could not have said or explained it any better. Despite what we will face, we look to the future because of this feeling.  Yet, it is just a feeling that Spring brings and jump starts the grower inside of all of us.   

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We are already behind

We tore down and packed up the high tunnel that collapsed this year.  We are still loosing layers.  Now, whatever is getting the chicken has learned to jump the electric fence to get to the birds.  We have fifty broilers on pasture and another fifty more in the barn, with fifty more in the brooder.

Much to our surprise, the RIR males are coming up to weight quicker than anticipated.  This means we may be able to process them in 8-10 weeks instead of the 10-12 weeks as predicted.  For someone enthusiastic this is good news.  I cannot help but look at them with out a certain amount of dread.

I am not use to growing something and taking care of it in such a way that it thrives and remains healthy, only to turn around and end its life prematurely.  One of our returning staff is a vegan.  When we decided that we needed to get into the bird business, in order to stay in business, we talked to her.  We wanted to be up front with what we were doing.  We did not want to lose her because she is a great worker and an even better person.

We just wanted to let her know, so if she had a problem with us raising animals for eating she could get a jump on finding another job.  Much to our surprise and delight, she said she would be okay with it as long as she did not have to do any processing.  Heck, we do not want to do any processing so we were on board with her.

Our other apprentice has been building “Salatin type” pens for the broilers.  Each one he builds gets better than the one before.  He is already thinking about adapting the pen for layers so we can protect them better than we are currently.  The pens are a work of art, functional, self-contained, sturdy and most of all great protection from all predators, except maybe black bears.  I think if a black bear got to one of the pens, they would have a little trouble but they would get to the broilers.  Fortunately, the bears tend to stay further west than were we are located.

We are late in planting.  We are losing control of the 400 strawberry plants to weeds and heat.  Not the heat provided by the sun but the heat provided by yours truly.  I learned a valuable lesson this year.  I am old.  I was flame weeding for about two hours straight when I started on the strawberries.  The flame-weeder is a five-gallon propane tank strapped to a heavy-duty backpack with a torch.  The whole get up weighs about forty pounds when fully loaded.  We had eight rows of fifty strawberry plants before I started flame weeding.  For those of you familiar with our weeding you know were this is heading.  If not, see “Are We Done Planting”.

It was getting late, I was tired, and one of the straps was digging into my shoulder.  I just kept pushing myself.  You can actually see how tired I had become by the look of each row.  They first three rows had no fried plants.  The fourth row had a couple burned plants.  It was not until you got to the very last row that you could see just what damage I had done.  Out of fifty plants, I am embarrassed to say that we have about twenty-two alive.  I should have quit earlier and done something else.  I just kept pushing myself and eventually paid the price, as we all do when we make dumb decisions.

We planted the first three rows of sunflowers around the perimeter of the garden.  The sunflowers, we hope, will serve as a trap crop for the stinkbugs.  The trap crop area is fifteen feet wide by eight hundred feet.  We are also planting about two hundred pumpkin plants in the outer ring of the sunflower perimeter. 

We will plant, inside the pumpkins and sunflowers, everything that we lost last year along with some fruits and herbs.  Then we will collect stinkbugs per the Michigan State Entomology protocol.  The bugs will be frozen counted and reported back to Michigan State via the www.bmsb.opm.msu.edu website.  If you have not registered on this site, I strongly encourage you to do so.  The more information we all share about the BMSB the better chance all organic farmers will benefit.

For now, we have to get stuff in the ground if we are going to be able to generate revenue.  I just wish we were not so far behind on everything.  Then again, if we were not than it would not be spring.

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